The topic of conversation is long forgotten and really doesn’t matter anyway. It was how the late Bill “Skip” Johns referred to himself in a comment on GNN many years ago that got him into a pickle.
Well, it wasn’t really a pickle for Skip, who died recently at the age of 83. He was serious about covering golf and high school sports in towns such as Niagara Falls and Kitchener-Waterloo, but he didn’t let the little things bother him.
So, when another writer came at him for signing his GNN comment with the title “Dean of Ontario Golf Writers,” Skip just laughed it off with his familiar grin, suggesting to me later that the fellow who took him to task might want to consider loosening up his posterior. Well, that’s a nice translation of what he actually said.
Truth be known, I had never heard of any writer in Ontario being called the “Dean,” so the criteria for earning the title was unknown.
Skip’s reasoning was seniority, that he’d been around longer than any of his contemporaries at the time. That might have been true, maybe not. All I knew was that he’d been around longer than me and I wasn’t willing to do the fact checking to see if his claim was true against all the other writers in the province.
Skip was at a point in his career and life where if he wanted to go by a nickname that wasn’t official and one that had never been used, so be it. To my knowledge, nobody is claiming it now that he’s left us.
He was known for his sense of humour, often turning it on himself in a self-deprecating way, so ego wouldn’t have been the reason for the “Dean” nickname.
The 2016 winner of the Lorne Rubenstein Media Award from the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame had human frailties, but he is remembered fondly years later by athletes he covered and colleagues.
A few decades ago after a golf trip to San Antonio, Tx, Skip came up to me as we were leaving the airport, thanked me for the laughs and handed me a blue cap with the the words “Skip’s Picks” across the front. It was a gift that meant a lot to not only him, but me.
I had made the dean’s list.